Beyond the 2 Million Safe Hours

Global Congress on Process Safety
AIChE Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety
April 30, 2013 - 10:15am-10:45am
ABSTRACT

In September 2012, WorleyParsons Arctic Business Unit, part of WorleyParsons Western Operations in Southern California, celebrated completion of 2 million hours without any recordable injuries/incidents for a major Alaskan Client.  In the highly visible and challenging world of hydrocarbons projects in “brown field” settings (with inherent simultaneous ongoing operations, and process safety issues), such accomplishments are definitely significant.  This paper presents perspectives from two of the company managers, using hind-sight analysis.

Context: In September 2012, WorleyParsons Arctic Business Unit, part of WorleyParsons Western Operations in Southern California, celebrated completion of 2 million hours without any recordable injuries/incidents for a major Alaskan Client.  In the highly visible and challenging world of hydrocarbons projects in “brown field” settings (with inherent simultaneous ongoing operations, and process safety issues), such accomplishments are definitely significant.  Given below is a perspective from the authors for use by project teams in this context.

Be Pragmatic: As highly productive project groups pursue high quality, “fit for purpose” and “cost effective” deliverables, contradictions between the passionate safety commitments  by some, and the casual non-compliance by others, can be perplexing.  Also, there can be an inherent tendency to not “over-do” anything, in the name of efficiency, or if it is not a “billable” and “approved” activity.   The Arctic Business Unit mentioned above has detailed safety management procedures and practices in place to ensure structure and consistency across the program.  Project teams should remember that safety requirements can be an auditable function for verification of compliance with pre-defined expectations.  Also, safety culture is a value, not a deliverable – it is OK to overdo values, and safety prevention measures are necessary part of this value. 

Delivering Safe Projects: For contracting companies serving major clients, delivering safety in projects is a condition for doing business.  However, delivering safety in complex projects can often seem more of an art than a science.  We have seen impressive safety records on some projects blown away by the “weakest link” in the safety management process.  No one comes to work thinking that I am going to hurt myself today, yet safety incidents continue to occur.  We should not underestimate the importance of a strong and responsive safety culture to prevent safety incidents.  Common sense in application of the procedures and honest appreciation of the complexity involved is important.  As individuals, we all bring in varying levels of knowledge, risk awareness, tolerance, and judgment. Therefore, open communication about what we know, what we don’t know, use of courtesy and consideration necessary to compensate for others’ shortcomings (like in defensive driving) are very important.  It is also useful to see preventive safety measures as actions addressing risks, not necessarily as someone’s “short comings” (even if they appear to be).  Many of us might have seen passionate discussions about safety, and people turning “defensive” when the conversations are misunderstood.  The complexities of the context and communications) make the safety delivery process so challenging.  As a major contractor for several large Alaskan clients, WorleyParsons gets to contribute (and offer improvements) to their world of safety requirements, as well as safety culture.  For many contractors, success can in fact depend on the ability to add value to their client’s safety requirements as well as safety culture.

Leading vs. Lagging Indicators: The world of safety management uses two common terms for measuring its effectiveness - “leading indicators” and “lagging indicators”.  Leading indicators are measurements made before an “incident” occurs, lagging indicators are measurements made after the fact (past performance).  The law has clear definition for “recordable injury” incidents – which we all strive to prevent.  Completion of 2 million hours without a recordable injury is a lagging indicator.    The recording of any potential safety concern is a leading indicator.  Some other examples of leading indicators used by WorleyParsons Arctic Business Unit include meetings addressing safety (such as Process/Engineering safety meetings, HSE Steering committee meetings where we discuss status of previously recorded unsafe conditions, “near misses”, suggestions for improvements), newcomer safety orientations, drills to check preparedness for emergencies, etc.  These tools are  useful to fuel and reinforce  the project teams’ passionate commitment to their HSE values.  Good safety management (whether personal or in groups/projects) always includes plenty of sensitivity for leading indicators.

Celebration of Accomplishments: Celebration of accomplishments is an important way to sustain them.  They should not be clouded or confused by  contradictory behaviors.  Also, we celebrate accomplishments that are difficult to achieve.  The higher the difficulty, the better we should be feeling about the accomplishments.   

What Next?: The periods following celebrations can be the most vulnerable for safety incidents.  If anyone on a project team has a question or a doubt regarding any matter that connects with their personal safety, potential safety issues that can arise during their projects’ execution (even after handover to the client), no one should ever hesitate to bring them forward.  “Engagement’” of the team and open, honest communication are thus very critical in safety matters.  As the volume of the safety conversation increases, Project Management must weigh and balance the resource needs, pragmatically process the inputs received, and prioritize potential actions for implementation.  Delivering on HSE expectations requires exceptional responsiveness to identified safety concerns.  In addition, several other critical factors come to mind to ensure success.  Some of these include “walking the talk” by the management, minimizing gaps between reality and expectations by striving for continuous improvement (of procedures/expectations), sustaining creativity/innovation by maintaining a mutually respectful culture that accommodates individual styles/differences, while being consistent with application of enforcement/audit measures.       

Celebrations like completion of millions of safe hours are lagging indicators in personal safety.  There is so much more to manage when we think of “engineering safety” required to ensure no harm to our client’s assets and the environment. 

It is a sweet feeling to be successful in safety delivery.  Project teams should keep celebrating their successes, keep their minds on leading indicators, and promote their HSE culture  

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

There is an old saying that victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.  The authors want to insist that the accomplishment discussed in the paper belongs to everyone in these project teams – not to the managers.  Special acknowledgements are also due to the volunteers who lead the safety agenda forward, including Mark Anzelon.  

About the Authors:                                

Rao Akula is a Senior Manager for HSE and Risk Management in WorleyParsons Western Operations’ Arctic Business Unit.  Rao is a Registered Professional Engineer (Chemical Engineering) in California, with a Masters in Computer Information Systems from California State University of Los Angeles. Rao joined WorleyParsons in 2007 and has worked in a wide variety of settings in the industry since completion of his Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, India in 1977. Rao’s past employers include Engineers India, New Delhi (1977-82), Kuwait National Petroleum Company, Mina Abdulla Refinery, Kuwait (1982-90), Brown & Root, Alhambra, California (1991-99), State of California Department of Toxic Substances Control, Glendale & Sacramento, California (2000-2006), and BP, Long Beach, California (2006-07).       

Al Frame – please insert a picture and bio similar to the above.


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